Every year, heart disease kills more people than any other disease on earth, including cancer.
So, is it any wonder that we’re all searching for ways to keep our ticker ticking? From exercise and supplements to diet, we all want to know how to keep our hearts healthy.
And now, science has found a sweet answer to that problem in an unlikely place.
Pass the chocolate
Yes, the answer is chocolate!
In fact, new research from Baylor College of Medicine has found that eating the rich desert that is the favorite of so many (including me) could help lower your risk of heart disease.
And so that you don’t think it was some flash-in-the-pan, one-off study, you should know that previous clinical studies have shown chocolate has the ability to lower blood pressure and was beneficial to the lining of blood vessels.
So, you can see why the Baylor team was interested in the topic. But this time, they specifically set out to see if chocolate affected the blood vessels supplying the heart (known as the coronary arteries) or not. And if it did, was it helpful or harmful.
To do this, the researchers analyzed six studies from the past five decades examining the association between chocolate consumption and coronary artery disease (the blockage of the coronary arteries). The team combed through data that included a whopping 336,289 participants, which reported follow up of an average of nearly nine years.
Not only did their findings confirm the heart-healthy benefits of chocolate, but their findings also showed that compared with consuming chocolate less than once a week, eating chocolate more than once a week was associated with an 8 percent decreased risk of coronary artery disease.
That’s right, just by having your favorite chocolate bar once a week, you could reduce your risk of heart disease by a full 8 percent.
I don’t know about you, but my first thought was, “Sign me up and pass the chocolate!”
How it works and how much to eat
According to the team, they believe that the reason chocolate is so heart healthy is that it contains heart-healthy nutrients such as flavonoids, methylxanthines, polyphenols and stearic acid which may reduce inflammation and increase your level s of HDL or good cholesterol.
This is how it keeps your blood vessels healthy.
But they also have a warning… eat chocolate, but don’t overeat it.
While moderate amounts of chocolate can help keep your heart ticking along, larger quantities with more calories, sugar, milk and fat, could do just the opposite.
My advice is to go with dark chocolate that’s loaded with disease-fighting antioxidants and doesn’t pack the same sugary punch as other options.
Research on the benefits of dark chocolate versus milk chocolate has shown that individuals who eat dark chocolate alone had more total antioxidants in their blood, particularly an antioxidant called epicatechin. Epicatechin is a powerful compound found in chocolate (and green tea). The milk chocolate eaters had the lowest epicatechin levels of all groups.
Other benefits of dark chocolate include:
- Dark chocolate is better for weight loss. Dark and milk chocolates have the same number of calories, but dark chocolate has fewer carbohydrates and fat than milk chocolate. A high carbohydrate diet will increase insulin secretion, which is a signal for the body to store energy as fat.
- Dark chocolate has more cocoa and nutrients than milk cocoa. It has more dietary fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium.